Gilligan’s Island was a CBS Network sitcom. It was created and directed by Sherwood Schwartz. The show aired from 1964 to 1967. The plot? Seven shipwrecked castaways trying to live on a deserved island after their boat is stranded.
Mary Ann and Ginger were only meant to have gone on a three hour boating trip. There is no way that these characters had enough clothes to never be seen in the same thing twice; but that’s what ended up happening. You never see the two wearing the same thing twice.
The Skipper’s Name
The Skipper was only known as the Skipper, we never hear his actual full name, or do we? If you listen closely, the Skipper gave us his name during the pilot episode that aired in 1964. His full name was Jonas Grumby. When Alan passed away, his ashes were scattered at sea. “It’s what ‘The Skipper’ would have wanted,” a source said.
The fourth wall is the space between an actor and his camera crew or audience. The Skipper would often break the fourth wall when he would be caught looking directly at the camera and making a face. Also, there was a plan for a fourth movie, which Denver described as “The seven of us think it’s destroyed and we get married. Gilligan marries Mary Ann and they have a baby boy. The Professor marries Ginger and they have a baby girl. And then there’s like a Blue Lagoon sequence where the kids grow up, so when Gilligan’s son is twenty, he sails off to see whether the world is really destroyed, and of course it isn’t. They heard it on the radio, and Gilligan broke it just before the disclaimer came on.”
The Skipper, played by Alan Hale Jr. had a bit of a vocal tic where he would call people ‘little buddy’. This translated into his character on screen, when he would call Bob Denver’s character, Gilligan, ‘little buddy’.
Actor Bob Denver didn’t like that his co-stars Dawn Wells and Russell Johnson, were listed in the credits as ‘the rest’ rather than named. He insisted that they be named in the credits. Fair is fair! Fun little fact too is that Jerry Van Dyke was offered the role of Gilligan and turned it down, “But that’s the joke: I turned it down and took My Mother the Car. But, again, it was really good, because I’d [have] been forever known as Gilligan. So that worked out, too!”
Flags At Half Staf
Within the first scene of the opening credits to the show, the US flags are seen hanging at half mast. The reason for that was the shooting of John F. Kennedy, which occurred right before filming started. More specifically the show’s pilot episode finished filming on November 22, 1963 which coincided with the day President Kennedy was shot.
Sherwood Schwartz, the creator of the show, hated Newton Minow, who, at the time was the head of the Federal Communications Commission. As a form of a private joke, Schwartz named the shipwreck S.S Minnow.
The cups the characters were drinking from were made out of real coconuts during the first season. But because coconuts are actually porous and therefore easily ruined, the characters used ceramic cups that looked like coconuts thereafter.
Because the show is from the 60s, most of the actors from the show have since passed away, as did the show’s creator, Sherwood Schwartz. Those that remain, Dawn Wells and Tina Louise are both well into their 70s and 80s.
Jim Backus’ character, Thurston Howell III, was a reference to Sherwood Schwartz’s show, The Alan Young Show. Backus would also play the character of Hubert Updyke III. Also, when Sherwood was pitching the show, he said, “the island would be a social microcosm and a metaphorical shaming of world politics in the sense that when necessary for survival, yes we can all get along”.
Natalie Schafer was 13 years older than tv show husband, Jim Backus. Her contract clearly stated that there were to be no close-ups of her so as to make sure no one would see a singe wrinkle.
The characters received radio transmissions via their Packard Bell AM radio. An additional telescoping antenna was there to make it more believable that the castaways would actually get long distance messages.
The storylines of the show wrote that the castaways created technology from scraps on the island. Obviously this made more work for the show’s prop team, who had to think up crazy inventions made with only a few random objects.
CBS redid their show line up and Gilligan’s Island got the boot. Their ratings were low at this point and the network thought the show could be on a less expensive time slot, ultimately cutting it out altogether for the series, Gunsmoke.
Before the demise of the show, but already feeling its decline, the producers wanted to bring in a new ‘character’ to freshen things up. They thought a friendly dinosaur would do, except that in the end it didn’t work out because it would have cost too much. “Just picture it!” Schwartz remembered Stromberg saying. “Gilligan and his pet dinosaur! It’s our answer to ‘Mr. Ed.’”
Alan Hale Jr. road to his audition was a crazy one. First he got on a horse from his other set in Utah, then hitchhiked to Vegas and from there flew to Los Angeles to audition for the role of Bob Denver. Wow.
Notice the Gilligan never had a first name? During the show he was always called Gilligan and there was never mention of his first name. After the show ended, Sherwood Schwartz told the world that Gilligan’s first name was Willie. Schwartz and Denver used to say, “He thinks Gilligan is his first name, and I think it’s his last name. Because in the original presentation, it’s Willy Gilligan. But he doesn’t believe it, and he doesn’t want to discuss it. He insists the name is Gilligan.”
LA is known for having heavy traffic, and that kind of traffic makes a substantial amount of noice. So when the lagoon scenes were shot on CBS’s lot in LA, they needed to shoot fast so as not to get the noice from the nearby highway.
Natalie Schafer did the pilot episode of the show to get a free vacation to Hawaii, where the show’s pilot was filmed. Later, when the show was picked up by CBS, she’d be upset to learn that she would have to move to LA for the filming.
Marry Ann, played by Dawn Wells, couldn’t sing to save her life. So when the script stated that they all had to sing, she just mouthed along with everyone so to make sure they all sound good.
Mr. Fix It
Fans were not fooled when it came to The Professors role in the show. Since he was so handy with making things from stuff all over the island, how is it that he couldn’t fix the boat?
Everyone thought at the time that Alan Young was the producers favorite to play Gilligan. Many years later though, Sherwood stated that he has no idea who got that idea since he was never even thought of for the role.
In the beginning, there was an idea to put a child in the show, as The Professor’s nephew. The idea didn’t end up coming to fruition because Gilligan was such a kid at heart that it made the show better without needing a kid.
Not to say that the show had any fault for this, but all three leading ladies of the show were each married for less than ten years. Maybe it was the shows shooting schedule that did it?
When David Bowie died, earlier in 2016, #RipBobDenver hashtag was trending, bringing up fan tributes from around the globe. This was after Denver had been deceased for over ten years.